I’m a huge advocate for sharing the best boutique hotels in Europe and beyond on my travel blog. But, if you’re a new reader, you may be wondering what is the meaning of a boutique hotel and how do you tell the difference between a boutique hotel and a hotel in general?
In this post, I will not only be sharing the definition of a boutique hotel and the unique characteristics to look for, but I’ll also be sharing a roundup of my favourite boutique hotels in Europe from my travels.
Finding the best boutique hotels in Europe so you don’t have to!
Searching for the boutique hotels in Europe’s major cities can be time-consuming, particularly if you like to check hotel reviews before you stay (like I do!) This post contains all the best boutique hotels I’ve discovered from my travels, if not to give you inspiration for places to stay in Europe, but for me to relive some of my own trips (something I always like to do when I’m not exploring somewhere new!)
What is a Boutique Hotel?
The definition of a boutique hotel from The Oxford Dictionary is as follows:
“a small stylish hotel, typically one situated in a fashionable urban location.”
A boutique hotels’ definition is summed up as being a small, yet trendy hotel. But, the concept of a boutique hotel and what it is like to stay in a boutique hotel goes beyond that.
What is the difference between a boutique hotel and a hotel chain?
Unlike big chain corporate hotels, which generally have the same design appearance in every room; boutique hotels characteristics are often more varied to give guests a unique stay.
Boutique hotels normally provide guests with a more local experience, either by basing the look and feel of the hotel on the local neighbourhood or basing the name or design on a local artist or well-known resident. It could be that the hotel uses only the freshest ingredients from local suppliers or that the hotel has been designed by a local artist. Overall, boutique hotels (even small brand boutique hotels) are influenced by locality and this, in turn, helps guests immerse themselves into local life and culture to improve their travel experience.
The look and feel of boutique hotels generally have a more welcoming and cosy vibe, as the rooms will often have more than the standard picture on the walls. Expect to see vases, a selection of books, fancy toiletries, cushions and all the other items you may expect to see in your own home.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be so inspired by a boutique hotel design ideas that you’ll try and recreate the interiors and styles in your own home.
Why I love Small Boutique Hotels
Boutique hotels make you want to explore every detail. When you fondly recall memories from a trip, you picture vivid details about where you stayed and what you did. These images in your mind transport you back there once more, if only for an instance.
When I think about my time in Lisbon, I remember opening the door to the boutique hotel room, the light streaming in through the terrace windows leading out to a balcony and how the light fell on a small circular table where some traditional pasteis de natas and a bottle of wine sat waiting as a welcome gift. This marks my experience eating Portuguese pasteis de natas for the first time.
When I stayed in The Cotswolds I remember perching by the rounded windows looking out to rolling green hills, clutching the Ziggy Stardust book in my hand that I’d handpicked from the bookshelf.
I fondly recall coming back to the boutique aparthotel in Reykjavík after long days exploring South Iceland, to drink a nice warm cup of tea, then cooking the ingredients purchased from a local supermarket.
These memories intricately entwine with the trip as a whole, therefore why would I choose to stay anywhere that lessens this experience?
These boutique hotels became my holiday home and have inspired me in many ways, from hotel interior inspiration, local life and even how to lead a more eco-friendly life.
Boutique Hotels vs Chain Hotels
Boutique hotels encapsulate your overall experiences of a destination, rather than being just another big brand hotel in another big city.
A big brand chain hotel is likely to use the same international suppliers for the majority of their hotels to keep the overall costs down. That’s why you are likely to see the same furniture in every room and, why the catering at big brand hotels often fails to include any local cuisines and flavours.
Boutique hotels aim to inspire travellers and support locals. The two come hand-in-hand, creating a more authentic and sustainable travel experience.
Whilst some people may say it’s not about where you stay as the purpose is about exploring a new destination. I would have to disagree. Where you stay can have a big impact on your overall experience of a destination and inspire actions to take forward in your own life.
For instance, I stayed in a boutique hotel in South Beach Miami (review coming soon) and enjoyed a day trip to Bimini, Bahamas where I spent some time at Hilton Resorts World Bimini. As a global hotel brand, you would think Hilton would be doing everything they can to minimise plastic waste to aid the environment and would have the capital means to do so better than a small boutique hotel brand. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, or at least it wasn’t when I spent the day in Bimini. I was shocked by the number of plastic straws and packaging at Hilton Resorts World, particularly given the hotel’s beautifully scenic location on the blissful Bimini Islands. I was disappointed that the hotel was actively encouraging guests to hire petrol golf buggies to explore the island.
This contrasted my stay in my Miami boutique hotel, which has bike hire, water fountains to encourage guests to use recycled water bottles and paper cups and straws to reduce plastic waste.
Where we stay and spend our money can have a real impact and these hotels are not going to change unless we do. Being more mindful about where you spend your money can make a real difference to locals that live in these destinations and the environment as a whole.
Boutique Hotels in European Capital Cities (& Popular Cities)
Now you have an idea about boutique hotel characteristics, I hope you’re ready to delve into booking a boutique hotel of your own!
I’m about to share with you the best boutique hotels in Europe I’ve stayed at personally. I’ll be sharing boutique hotels in Europe’s major cities, from the capital cities to smaller popular cities in Europe and beyond.
It’s worth bookmarking or pinning this post to Pinterest to save for a later date as I expand this Europe hotel list to give you inspiration for unique boutique hotels in Europe for your upcoming travels.
The Hoxton Hotel Paris
As a small boutique hotel chain encompassing the qualities of a good boutique brand, it’s only right I share The Hoxton first.
Hoxton Hotels are designed with both travellers and locals at the heart of every new hotel, a vision evident on the opener of their website, which reads “Open house hotels, inspired by the streets and scenes that surround them.”
One of my first observations of The Hoxton Hotel Paris was the sheer amount of French locals enjoying a coffee, bite to eat or social gathering in the cafe and Hoxton Rivie Restaurant.
It was like stepping into a timeless French cafe, listening to the soft soothing French accents as they chit-chatted over their croissants, coffees and croque-monsieurs.
Experiencing local culture without leaving the hotel was one of many wonderful things about staying at The Hoxton Hotel Paris and dropping into the London Hoxton Hotels is no different.
From the open window views peeking out over French rooftops and window boxes to the stylish, yet minimalist decor. The trendy teal coloured Cosy Garden Room at The Hoxton had an array of boutique design touches from a vintage radio, mustard-coloured telephone and sparkling crystal glasses.
Trendy toiletries and bold bronze bath fittings gave features such as the parquet floor and leather-bound bed a modern twist.
I even bought replica Hoxton bedding in their signature geometric style when I returned!
The Luma Concept Hotel Hammersmith London
I had never stayed or explored Hammersmith, or much of West London at all, before my stay at The Luma Concept Hotel.
And, I don’t think I’m the only one. Tourists visiting London often choose to stay in busy tourist areas, such as Covent Garden, Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square Hotels. But, staying in Central London can mean you get less bang for your buck.
The Luma Concept Hotel is located just outside central London and is a few minutes tube journey from all the major tourist attractions. Perfectly positioned within a couple of minutes walk to Hammersmith tube station, The Luma Concept Hotel is a small boutique London hotel reflecting Hammersmith’s heritage.
Inspiration for the hotel sparks from the late Osram Lightbulb Factory, one of the first light factories to be built in Britain and one that dominated the West London area.
The theme of ‘light’ is evident as soon as you walk through to reception. Exposed light bulbs and pipework give the hotel an industrial twist. This decor works well with the exposed brickwork and is given a more feminine feel with floral displays dotted around the hotel.
Igniting the history of the local area, the Luma Hotel provides guests with illuminating quotes throughout the hotel. You with me on the light theme yet?!
Luma has done away with hotel facilities that you may not use, such as a spa or restaurant, creating a ‘naked stay’ concept. Instead, they cater to the individual needs of their guests.
Forgotten your toothbrush or need some recommendations on where to dine? Luma has it covered. Luma are on had to cater for your individual needs and the rooms even come with hospitality tablets enabling you to see recommendations for the local area. 20% discount for selected restaurants and retailers is also provided by the hotel.
Not a morning person and prefer a late checkout? I hear ya! It’s not a problem at Luma. The Luma Hotel operates on a 24-hour policy, so if you didn’t check in until 4 pm, as long as the hotel room is not urgently required they are happy for you to check out at 4 pm the following day. Amen!
If you’re out in a hurry or want to sample as many foodie delights as you can whilst in the capital (I’m the latter), then you might want to grab Luma’s Grab & Go breakfast bag.
Similar to the Grab & Go breakfast bags at The Hoxton Paris, the complimentary Grab & Go breakfast bag is provided for each guest and includes a bottle of orange juice, a piece of fruit and a pastry.
Hotel Ottilia, Copenhagen Denmark
Hotel Ottilia is another hotel that has stayed true to its industrial heritage. Part of the small boutique hotel group Brøchner’s, Ottilia is the latest addition and is located in the upcoming Carlsberg District.
The hotel effortlessly combines chic boutique and exposed industrial design hotel features. The exposed walls, steel pillars and minimalist lighting make way for soft furnishings, floral displays and ribbon-decorated ceilings.
The hotel had me on happy hour, as every day between 5-6 pm, you can drink the house red or white for free! This element created a great social dining aspect at the hotel and would be particularly good for those travelling solo to Copenhagen.
For those looking to stay closer to Copenhagen city centre, other Brøchner Hotels are also worth checking out. And yes, you can still call in for happy hour at these hotels if you’re staying at Hotel Ottilia.
Here are all the Brøchner Hotels:
Hotel Bishops House Prague
I love finding small boutique hotels that have a local heritage. Hotel Bishop is as the name suggests, the former house of the Bishop and the hotel has beautifully preserved some of the original features dating back to the 16th century, such as alcove ceilings and original Gothic tower.
Whilst we were not staying in one of the original Bishop’s rooms, the interiors are fine in the modern rooms and even include a smart TV with Netflix.
The hotel has 26 rooms and is only 50 yards from The Charles Bridge, making it ideal for a base to get up early to snap some shots on the bridge in the morning before it’s overrun with tourists.
The hotel is located on the Mala Strana side of the Charles Bridge and the quiet old town is good for those who want a good night’s sleep. The hotel is less than ten minutes walk to The John Lennon Wall and Prague Castle.
The staff are really friendly too, particularly Alexander who helped us sort out an urgent issue with our flight by calling Czech Airways.
If you are looking for a boutique hotel in Prague, look no further than Bishop’s House Hotel.
Hotel Market Barcelona
My most recent discovery is a boutique hotel in Barcelona. Inspired by Sant Antoni Market, Hotel Market is located in the centre of Barcelona, within close proximity to many great restaurants and 30 minutes walk to many of Barcelona’s main attractions, such as Arc de Triomf, Parc de Ciutadella and Plaça de Catalunya.
The combination of good location, neo-classical boutique look and vibe, as well as the restaurant’s array of Catalan dishes was what made me want to book a room at Hotel Market Barcelona.
The huge crystal chandelier in the entrance foyer caught my eye straight away.
The black and raspberry pink colours and decor in our room at Hotel Market complement the neo-classical design and, like other boutique hotels, the rooms are individually designed, therefore different colours and design features will vary.
The queen-size bed and pillows in our room were just what we needed to drift off into a deep sleep, despite our central location. Like always, I had tried to get the brand details of the pillows as they were amazing, but I was unable to track down a brand, unfortunately.
I particularly love the cute little terrace area and on warmer evenings I would have sat out there listening to the city noise below me.
The hotel has an onsite bar and restaurant, which was ideal for Adam and I as we were hungry for a bite to eat after a late flight.
Hotel Market Restaurant prides itself in showcasing Mediterranean tradition with contemporary influences, using the best ingredients from the market to create slow-cooked culinary dishes.
The menu at Hotel Market is varied, with lots of dishes to suit individual tastes. I was torn between ordering the honey-aioli glazed Catalan salt cod and the Iberian pork morel stew. The waitress was on hand to provide recommendations and advised that the Iberian pork stew is one of their most popular dishes, as it is a traditional Catalan recipe. The pork stew wasn’t quite what I’d expected when served as I was expecting a bowl of stew. First impressions aside, this dish is delicious. The stew has a fruity flavour, cooked with tomatoes, current and raisins and tastes great with the pork.
Adam and I enjoyed two mains, a pudding to share and a bottle of wine for 35 euros, which isn’t a bad price at all.
Ideal for those looking for a central Barcelona stay in a boutique hotel with a traditional on-site restaurant.
Lisboa Pessoa Boutique Hotel, Lisbon
Lisboa Pessoa Hotel is part of Lux Hotels Group, a brand of eight small boutique hotels in Portugal. The Lux Hotel’s brand motto is “be lux, be unique.” I certainly had a unique hotel experience when I chose this hotel as my base for exploring Lisbon.
The inspiration for Lisboa Pessoa Hotel is a celebrated poet, Fernando Pessoa. The hotel even offers its guests an authentic culture and literary tour exploring the very streets, cafes and bookstores the poet frequented.
All the rooms and floors have been transformed into literary themes from Fernando Pessoa’s work.
I loved the bright entrance into our room and I was excited to look at the room’s individual touches, as well as try the pasteis de natas awaiting our arrival!
The hotel looks deceptively small from the outside, but inside the hotel boasts 75 boutique rooms, a rooftop restaurant terrace with views over Lisbon and a spa!
Lisboa Pessoa Hotel is located close to Chiado in the heart of Lisbon, a mere five minutes walk or so to Lisbon’s best Instagram photo spots, including the Justa Lift, Carmo Church and the Rua Augusta Arch.
A stay at Lisboa Pessoa Hotel is a Lisbon boutique hotel experience you won’t want to miss! After all, who doesn’t want to stay in a boutique hotel with spa facilities!
Boutique Aparthotels in Europe
Whilst not strictly a boutique hotel, aparthotels can be super convenient and a great way to keep your costs down for your travels.
In case you’re wondering what an aparthotel is? It’s basically an apartment with kitchenette facilities and a few more mod-cons than a hotel room, but usually has a reception or staff on hand to assist you with your stay.
I find them especially beneficial when travelling to Scandinavian countries as travel expenses are much dearer and it can be a godsend having a kitchenette to cook your own food.
So here are some great European city break aparthotels I’ve found.
The A5 Smart Luxury Studios, Porto
After loving my time in Lisbon, I couldn’t wait to do another Portugal city break again and experience Porto.
As soon as I saw The A5 Luxury Studios online I was blown away by the decor. It was my first time booking boutique accommodation where I needed to meet and collect the keys. Meeting someone to collect the keys can be nerve-wracking, especially when it comes to language barriers and so on. The communication from A5 Smart Luxury Studios was spot on and I was met at the property and welcomed with an array of Portuguese gifts including pasteis de natas, wine and confectionery.
The apartments gave us a local experience and are a short five or so minute walk from the Douro River and an array of local restaurants.
The top floor apartment where I stayed is beautifully furnished, creating a home-away-from-home environment and even has a mezzanine floor area. The kitchenette and mini-library are features I would have used more if I wasn’t spending my days exploring Porto’s pretty cobbled streets.
Porto is a very reasonably priced city to visit and these apartments are no different, enabling guests to enjoy an affordable luxury experience without breaking the bank.
Read my 2 days in Porto Itinerary.
The Swan House Boutique Aparthotel Reykjavík
Iceland captured my heart and is now one of my absolute favourite destinations. Staying at The Swan House Hotel in Reykjavík aided my enjoyment of this trip as it’s the perfect cosy base to return to after long days chasing Iceland’s waterfalls and driving Iceland’s famous Golden Circle Route.
The experience of coming back to this cosy boutique apartment is up there with just how relaxed I felt lulling around in Iceland’s thermal spas.
The kitchenette area is fabulous for saving money in Iceland and enables guests to enjoy the apartment as a home-away-from-home.
Not only does this boutique aparthotel have great decor, but the staff are lovely and always on hand to give you tips to see the Northern Lights. The location within 5 minutes walk to Hallgrimskirkja Church, The Sun Voyager Statue and Harpa Concert Hall provide an easy way to explore Reykjavík if time is limited on your South Iceland itinerary.
Easily one of the best boutique hotels in Reykjavík, I highly recommend staying at The Swan House.
Read my Swan House Hotel Review
Rural Boutique Hotels
I can’t share urban boutique hotels in Europe’s main cities without sharing some of my favourite rural boutique hotel favourites.
I had the pleasure of exploring more of England in the last year, enjoying a weekend in York and a day in Brighton. We can all be guilty of not exploring the places on our doorstep and if you’re anything like me, you want to change that!
Below you will find boutique hotels in rural areas and smaller towns.
The Embankment Hotel Bedford
Recently I discovered more places to stay near my hometown of Milton Keynes and stayed at The Embankment Hotel in Bedford. Peach Pubs Group have a small collection of hotels, which come with the wonderful pub grub that the brand is known for.
Bedford is around 30 minutes from my home in Milton Keynes, but I had never visited.
Mum and I took ourselves off for a boutique stay at The Embankment Hotel, where we had a river view room, huge roll-top bath and a sumptuous three-course meal (with wine, of course!)
Bedford is around 50 minutes by train into London St Pancras and is a great place to stay if you’re looking to explore other areas if you’re visiting the UK.
The Painswick Hotel, Cotswolds
Painswick in The Cotswolds is somewhere I love to go to escape hectic city life and just reconnect with nature.
Overlooking the Cotswolds hills and along the Cotswolds Way walking route is a heavenly place called The Painswick Hotel. The village of Painswick is known as the “Queen of The Cotswolds” and this beautiful hotel is a boutique bolt-hole for guests who want a relaxing slumber in the heart of the British countryside.
The hotel is part of the Calcot Collection of boutique hotels and has just sixteen rooms.
The Painswick Hotel is particularly beautiful during the spring months with views from the terrace lined with pretty purple wisteria.
A haven in the heart of The Cotswolds, Painswick is not as frequented by tourists and is the perfect place to enjoy a peaceful stay.
The Cornwall Hotel St Austell
How I had not visited Cornwall before last year is beyond me. Packing up the car and taking a Cornwall road trip for 3 days was just what I needed.
The Cornwall Hotel really showcases the best of Britain, from the picturesque walled English garden, lodge rooms and a quintessentially British Laura Ashley Tea Room.
Close to The Eden Project, The Lost Gardens of Heligan and popular Charlestown, The Cornwall Hotel is the perfect retreat.
The spa and Laura Ashley afternoon tea room are a great choice for a girls getaway in Cornwall too! I highly recommend taking advantage of the spa area and treatments available for a truly relaxing stay.
Europe Boutique Hotel List
There you have it, the best European boutique hotels that I’ve stayed at. These unique boutique hotels all mean something to me and bring back fond memories from my trips, which I will continue to cherish.
I always come away inspired by boutique hotel design and how hotels’ put together interiors to create a unique space. What I love most is how local life means so much to small boutique hotels and how this passion impacts on both guests and locals.
I hope this post has given you insight into the differences between a boutique hotel and hotel chains. The concept of boutique hotels is to provide a unique hotel experience to enable guests to connect with a destination and local life.
The Life of a Social Butterfly is all about living the luxe life for less and staying in boutique accommodation lets you do just that!
I love exploring Europe’s major cities and it’s worth noting that this post containing the best boutique hotels in Europe is working progress as I will be updating this post once I’ve stayed at more boutique hotels. I can’t wait to experience more wonderful boutique hotels this year and share them with you for future inspiration.
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